Smaller but harder

I’m going to address the history of music portability. There will be a quiz at the end. 

At one time, music was only as portable as how easy and convenient it was to carry your instrument.

If you were going to party with friends, you could bring your french horn, trombone, or viola to entertain them, but if you had a bass cello or sousaphone, probably not. That harpsicord, however, was right out.

Of course, you could always bring your wind-up music box, but hearing the same tinny musical passage over and over got old fast.

Then recorded music came and you could carry your windup gramaphone to the park to play your jams.

Cranking out the jams!

A hundred years or so later, technology has made impressive strides in the area of recorded music portability and now you can carry your entire music collection around in your pocket.

We’ve gone from boomboxes to the Sony Walkman to the MP3 players to smartphones.

Great, right?

Yes, except as the technology shrank the devices for some reason the engineers also made the tranference more difficult.

With the Sony Walkman you could easily make party tapes at home on a cassette recirder then insert the tape into the Walkman.

When CDs came out, you would have to take your pre-recorded commercial CD and play that. It wasn’t until years later when the home computer became more common that people were able to record to CD and make mix tapes, um, CDs to take with them.

Somewhere in that process the MP3 was created along with MP3 players. It was easy to load music onto your MP3 player, you just plugged it into your computer and transferred the songs you wanted. Easy peasy. My first MPe player stored all of 128kb, so if I wanted a variety, I’d have to download different songs to it. It became a little tedius.

Then I got an iPod, which held more songs. Unfortunately, the ease of transfering songs started to decline. To transfer music, you couldn’t just plug it in and drag and drop. No, you needed Apple specific software as well as needing to convert your current library of MP3s (or WMA, WAV, or whatever) to an Apple proprietary file format.

Soon, smartphones came on the scene. Great, we could now carry our music on a device that also worked as a phone and a computer. Things were much simpler, right?

Wrong. Not only did each device have it’s own way of transfering music, so did each cellphone carrier.

I’ve been through several smartphones, cellphone carriers, and platforms over the years. 

With each update, upgrade, or so-called “improvement” things became harder, not easier. For me, only one smartphone was ever relatively painless in its transfer process, the Windows 8 Nokia. It was truly drag-and-drop.

With every other device or carrier you needed to jump through hoops and finally Google the instructions to figure out how to sync up and transfer. 

The iPhone had the same issues as my iPod. In fact, it was worse, for whatever reason, and I often had to restart my computer and the iPhone several times just to get them to recognize each other.

My Samsungs were a pain in the ass as well, especially early on because Verizon forced you to download their proprietary software to transfer music. Thankfully, they abandoned that, but the Samsung was never drag-and-drop. The computer never recognized it until I sacrificed a chicken at midnight while singing Mother Goose nursery rhymes wearing a Brown derby and dancing a jig on one leg.

And every time I wanted to transfer songs, I had to Google the instructions again because I couldn’t remember the exact sequence. And even then it wouldn’t always work.

And my LG is just as bad. The computer wouldn’t recognize it when I plugged it in, even when I changed the phone’s “What to do when plugged into a computer” setting from “charge when plugged in” to “transfer files.” 

And does anyone think that is the stupidest feature? Why can’t it do all those things, charge, transfer files, act as a midi device, et cetera? Why should we have to specify? They’re both computers. They should automatically know what it is you are trying to do.

I Googled what to do and found out I needed to download two (2!) programs to my computer, and once I started those, I still had to change some settings on the LG for the two to sync.

And then I could transfer music.

But not so fast! It wasn’t transfering via the USB cable! No. That would make too much sense. Instead, through those two programs, the transfer happened via Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi! WTF? What idiot thought transfering music via Wi-Fi was a good fucking idea? I’d like to meet them so I can punch them in the nose!

Transfering files via Wi-Fi is a bad fucking idea. It’s slow. It fucks with everyone else using the Wi-Fi. And did I mention, it’s slow?

Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. It shouldn’t be, because everything else we do on our Wi-fi — Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, downloading Warez (kidding) — is fast, but this is sloooow.

…or someone is transfering files to their LG.

Transfering files via USB cable is fast! 

Transfering files via Wi-Fi is agonizingly slooooooow.

It reminded me of downloading music files with Napster via dial-up! It took forever for one song. Download an album? Might as well do it overnight. I mean, that’s what I’ve heard. I have never illegally downloaded music myself. That would be wrong.

So WTF? I appreciate that technology has made music so much more portable than it was when I was younger. My smartphone is much easier, and lighter, to carry on a morning run than the Walkman ever was.

But can’t we make file transfers easier? What is so hard about having our devices all be compatible and all you need to do is plug them together, they recognize each other, and away you go dragging and dropping music?

Is that too much to ask? For user-friendly, easy to use, cross-compatible technology?

I don’t fucking think so.

Here is the quiz I promised:

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Pop?

(I never said it would be related to my blogpost.)

3, according to Mr. Owl.

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Free at last

My son cracked his cellphone screen. We paid insurance to Verizon for that sort of thing.

Turns out, Verizon farms the insurance out to someone else. Verizon used to send a new phone (ok, a refurbished one) out and you’d ship the broken one back.

Not any more. Now you have to go to this other vendor, and pay them a ransom, to get the phone fixed, or replaced. I don’t know what they do since I balked at how much I’d have to pay. What is the point of paying for insurance if it does you no good?

The point is, his broken screen, and my unsuccessful attempts to get Verizon to lower our bill, are just the straws that broke our back and why we left.

So we have a new carrier, and we all have new phones. I finally am free of that horrible piece of shit I owned, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. 

I’ve had nothing but loathing for that phone almost since day one. Ok, maybe after a few weeks. I’ve ranted enough about it here that I don’t need to repeat it.

My main bitch was its pisspoor reception. I admit, I work inside a Farraday Cage of a building. No phone I’ve owned since working here, had very good reception. I’ve gone through two Samsung Galaxies (the first gen and this S7), a Nokia Windows 8 phone, an iPhone, and a Motorolla Droid. 

All had bad reception in my building and in the mall, where there are several dead zones. 

But the S7 Edge was the worst of the bunch. Reception woes, even WiFi, continued to plague it even at my own home. I’d be next to my wife and her Samsung Galaxy S7 got great reception while mine wouldn’t get shit.

And this wasn’t just data reception, some days, maybe because of the weather (see radio wave propagation), I couldn’t send texts and phone calls would drop off.

The S7 Edge also sucked with bluetooth. It never ever did pair with my car and always had issues pairing with most other devices.

We had two options when my son’s phone broke. I could just get him a new phone with Verizon or we could all switch to a new carrier.

Since my reception problem at work seemed to effect every phone I owned, then the problem was either my building, in which case I was screwed no matter what I did, or it was my carrier and switching might help.

That was my impetus for switching to US Cellular. They claimed to have great coverage here.

So we switched. And I chose an LG V20. 

First cool thing is, they’ve done away with the trapezoid shaped mini USB cables that only fit one way to charge and eventually broke the connector from continual jamming the damned thing into the hole the wrong way. This new plug fits either way. My son chose the Samsung Galaxy S8 and it has the new plug as well. Good. That old plug sucked.

Second cool thing is, my V20 paired with my car’s Blue and Me! Whoohoo! Success! The car even recognized it as a V20. And this morning when i got in and started the car, it asked me if I wanted to upload my contact list! It knows me!

Third cool thing is I get 4G LTE signal in my building! Not 3G. Not 1x. Not no signal at all. Those were common with the S7 Edge. No. I get a real, honest to goodness signal.

And you know what else i found out? There are no dead zones in the mall!

All my phone woes were because Verizon Wireless sucked! Can you hear me now? Yes, goddammit! I finally can hear you now!

Honestly, I hate to judge something after only two days, but so far US Cellular and the LG V20 are amazeballs!
To steal a slogan: LG — Life’s Good.

(And if I irritated anyone with my split infinitives, it was on purpose.)

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Nougat surprise

I just updated my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to the latest Android Nougat OS.

So far, I hate it. The name is appropriate because it reminds me of those awful old-fashioned candies only old people eat.

Nougat = Yuck.

Let’s begin with the Contacts/Call app settings. It took away Favorites and stuffed it in with the Contacts list. Favorites went from being nice and orderly — each Favorite easily accessible in a grid pattern, launched with just a touch — and has been reduced to an ordinary listview and is now part of the Contact List, which means now you have to do a lot more scrolling to find a contact, favorite or otherwise. How is that an improvement?

The Photos Gallery has also changed. Albums were laid out in a nice easy to see grid pattern, each grid square represented an album with a thumbnail of the the latest picture. Now it’s changed to a list. More scrolling. Obviously some programmer likes list view versus grid view.

They changed how Folders open. They used to open as a well-defined box superimposed above the rest of the screen. Now when you open a folder, it becomes the main screen, which just causes visual confusion.  Am I on the main screen or what? And now if you have more than  9 apps in a folder, the others are gone. Well, it seems that way until you realize the others reside on a second page inside that folder. Again, confusing. Before, you could see you had more apps inside the folder because they’d peek out at the bottom of the open folder. I’m surprised they didn’t change the Folders  to list view as well.

Another change concerning Folders, you launch an app from the folder, then when you finish and close with the phone’s back arrow, you find yourself back on that same Folder. Before, the Folder would close when the app was launched. This is one feature I’m ambivalent about. Do I like it or not? Only time will tell. I guess if you have a lot of apps in a Folder that you launch then close then immediately open the next app in that same Folder, this feature could prove useful.

The look and feel of the Pull Down Notifications and Menus at the top have changed as well. Again, you have to relearn how to do something you already knew how to do or where to find it. The look and feel of Settings has changed as well.

Facebook has changed, too, but I don’t know if that’s part of the Nougat upgrade or if Facebook updated their app at the same time.

For example: Now there is this extra icon bar at the top between the original menu ribbon and the “What’s on your mind?” status input. It contains a button called, “Direct,” one called “Your Story,” and yesterday it had something else I can’t remember now, but today it has a button with the name of one of my FB friends. When I click on it, it shows me his face all distorted with lights shooting from his eyes. WTF is that for? No explanation. 

I don’t mind change if it has obvious improvements. So far, with Nougat all I see is they polished all the bells and whistles  and moved them around just enough to be annoying. I’m curious what functional changes took place. 

Will I get used to the changes? Sure. We always do, but the real question is why should we have to?  What was wrong with grid view that they had to change it, for instance?

At least give us the option to choose which view we prefer, like:

  • Grid View – View lists in a pleasing,  orderly, and quickly  understood grid with easily recognisable thumbnails, or
  • List View – View lists in a dull, old-fashioned, and hard-to-read list format that you have to scroll through to find anything.

I think you know which one of pick.

Essentially, Nougat  is just showboating by the programmers, nothing more.

I give the Nougat upgrade a C, with the option to change that grade as I learn more about it.

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The Edge of Tripe

I apologize for not posting much recently, but I’ve actually been doing some real writing, fiction-type writing. 

And no, I wasn’t participating in NaNoWriMo. I don’t need an artificial challenge to write shit. I can write shit all on my own, thank you very much.

And speaking of shit, I thought I’d do a long term review on my smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I first reviewed it here. OK, it wasn’t a review so much as I savaged it.

Well, time hasn’t improved matters. After six months of ownership, I’m chomping at the bit to replace this piece of shit. It is by far the worst smartphone I’ve ever owned and I’ve owned a few.

My first “smartphone” was an LG something or other with a slide-out keyboard. it wasn’t an android device, it had a weird user-interface and to get online (which I rarely did because we didn’t have a data plan at the time) you clicked on the LG browser icon and were launched into an AOL-style experience. Anyway, it came out about the time the iPhone first did, before android, when Crackberry dominated the market and touchscreens were still in their infancy.

My next real smartphone was the first generation Samsung Galaxy S. I liked it at first, but quickly found it didn’t like the area where I had just started working: downtown in the mall.

Thus started my love/hate with smartphones. The building I’m in is, as I’ve mentioned, like a Faraday Cage. Reception within sucks. Although some people seem to do it, I haven’t been able to. 

That first gen Samsung Galaxy S wouldn’t connect to the Internet until I did a hard restart by yanking the battery once I stepped outside my building. 

My next phone was the iPhone 4S. Oh, yay, Seri! Personally, I don’t get the whole fad of talking to your phone (or those Google home devices where you can turn on the sprinklers to get rid of annoying people on your lawn). I don’t like to talk. Period. Not to people. Not to my devices. Seri, therefore, was a wasted accessory for me. But beyond that, and at first I was thrilled with the iPhone, I soon came to loathe it. For many reasons which I won’t get into. I’m sure I ranted about them four or five years ago. But the iPhone’s reception sucked, too. I had to do a hard reboot all the time to connect to the Internet.

At this point, I’d tried Android and the iPhone and found both lacking, so I picked up a Nokia Win7 phone. If memory serves, the hardware was pretty decent (Yay Finland!), but the disappointing part was the lack of apps for Windows phones.Basically, with that phone I could get online, but the apps sucked so bad it didn’t really matter that I’d gotten on.

My next phone was the Motorola Droid Turbo. I liked this phone, except the camera sucked. it was like time warping back to 1998. This phone suffered from severe digital lag. Snap a picture and seconds later the picture takes. Forget action shots unless you could anticipate when something would happen. “Oh, my son’s shooting a basket!” *click!* And by the time the phone reacted, all the players were already at the other end of the court. “Hey, nice shot of an empty court, dude.” Shut up.

So I traded that in for this, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Yes, it takes excellent pictures. I have a great portable camera.

But for anything else? It sucks. As I mentioned in my first look post, the receiver is THE worst. (Pronounce it like thee for full effect.) I have to restart or do a shutdown all the time so it’ll find a signal.

Wi-Fi isn’t any better. I can sit right next to my wife in our house and she’s Facebooking and Instagramming like all get out, but there I sit only a few feet away unable to get a fucking signal. It can’t find the Wi-Fi. And she owns the standard Samsung Galaxy S7! WTF?

Does hers have a better receiver? Because her phone is thicker, was Samsung able to squeeze a bigger, more powerful receiver in hers and we S7 Edge owners get stuck with inferior crap?

I don’t know. All I do know is I hate this piece of shit phone and I can’t wait until I can trade it in for something else. Maybe the new Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if they’ve improved the camera. Or possibly the latest LG (which I was looking at until the Verizon Wireless rep talked me into this POS. “Oh, the S7 is so much better!” Or maybe I’ll get the latest HTC, that one with the stereo speakers, because the speaker on the S7 Edge is horrible. No. Horrible would be a improvement. You need headphones to listen to videos because it its one weak ass tiny speaker on the bottom can’t be heard unless you’re isolated inside soundproof room.

Okay. Sorry. That really wasn’t a review so much as as rant about every smartphone I’ve ever owned, was it? This phone really has me on edge. Pun intended.

Maybe one day I’ll find a phone I can be happy with. 

What do you have? Are you happy with it? Whose your carrier? Are you satisfied with them? Feedback it’s appreciated.

Until next time.

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Samsung Edge disappoints

I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge for little over a week now and I can tell you this: it sucks.

I know what you’re thinking. “How can that be? Everyone is raving about it. I’ve read the reviews!”

Sure, the Edge gorgeous. It’s got that cool curved edge on the screen with scrolling notifications. And the camera is fantastic. It’s the best phone camera I’ve owned.

“Well then what’s the problem?”

It’s the receiver. This phone has the worst receiver of any phone I’ve ever owned with the possible exception of the crappy free noname Sprint phone we got back in 1995.

As you know, I work in a Faraday Cage-like building. But I know that and really don’t expect much in the way of Internet access. I do, however, expect to be able to receive calls at my desk–like every other cellphone I’ve owned.

Not this one. It rings, I answer, it drops the call.

I’m also aware that the mall I walk in on breaks when the weather is inclement (and this is Wisconsin, so the weather is always inclement) is called the Black Hole by the cellphone stores inside it.

But I’ve also been walking it for 6 years.  Six years and 5 phones. I know all the areas where there is weak reception and avoid the one dead spot.

The receiver on the Edge is so piss poor, the entire mall is one big dead spot! Even though it says it has a couple bars of 4G LTE, it still chugs away before giving me the notice “Try again when you’re online.”

I am online, asshole!

And you’d think going outside would clear things up, but no. Even in the open the Edge finds the dead spots.

“Post will appear when you’re online” is Facebook’s standard response to my attempts to post from this phone. It really chaps my ass.

It’s sad that I have to carry my little Jetpack mobile Hotspot with me so I can get online with this phone, but that’s the situation.

Yet even its reception of Wi-Fi sucks. We have home Wi-Fi and all our phones and devices can pick it up throughout the house and in the yard.

Not the Edge. I go outside and it complains there is no Wi-Fi signal. But instead of switching to the 4G network, it just sits in Limbo, unable to make up its mind what to do. Leaving me without any Internet, wondering if I should just drop it into the grill and be done with it.

In the time it’s taken me to write this I’ve watched my Edge say “connected to Wi-Fi,” “Lost Wi-Fi,” “connected to Wi-Fi,” “Lost Wi-Fi,” countless times.

So, in summary, if you plan on using the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge for anything other than a fairly decent camera, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

And the “beast of a battery” some reviews claim is pure bullshit. Maybe it’s an improvement over the S6, but compared to my last phone, the Droid Turbo, it’s like it doesn’t even have a battery. I have to charge it two or three times a day.

For a supposed state-of-the-art phone the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a monstrous disappointment.

Makes me wonder if Samsung isn’t engaging in a little payola to get those glowing reviews for this POS.

I wonder if Verizon will let me swap for the latest LG?

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Day 5 with Motorola Droid Turbo

It’s been five days that I’ve had the Motorola Droid Turbo. So far, I find it to be a great phone. Much better than the Nokia Lumia 928 I traded in for it. And tons better than the iPhone 4s I had prior to that.

Some quick thoughts: It’s fast. The apps open (some times they didn’t work at all on the Nokia Win8 phone) quickly and operate flawlessly.

It has really nice Internet reception and data transfer at work and in the mall I walk. I’ve only had two minor “Lost Internet Connection” issues and one was in the enclosed stairwell. That’s a whole lot better than my previous three smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S had a habit of hanging up completely because it couldn’t get a signal in our building. I’d have to shut it down and take out the battery to get it to resync to the Internet. The iPhone hung up, too, often requiring me to do a hard restart. The Nokia wasn’t bad except for the fact that none of the social media apps worked. I could get things through the browser, sometimes. I give it an B+.

The battery is pretty impressive. I unplugged it this morning at 6:30 am and right now at 5:00 pm, it’s at 28%. That’s pretty incredible. Those other phones? I’d have had to plug in by Noon! Sure, the ads say the battery will last two days, but I’m a heavy user. I give it an A+.

As a music player? When I try to drag M4a or WMA, nothing happens. It shows up in the file manager, but you can’t see it in the phone’s player. It only takes MP3 files. Guess I have to figure out how to convert all my files to MP3. That’s a bummer. But the player itself? Awesome. Best sound I’ve ever heard from a smartphone. Great stereo separation. It’s like I’m hearing these songs that I’ve listened to on all my previous phones for the first time. For the sound, I give it an A+, but because I can’t figure out how to use M4a or WMA on it, I give it an overall B+.

The camera. I read one review that said this was the Droid Turbo’s weak point. What? It is 21megapixels. I thought my Nokia, with it’s 8.7 mp with the Carl Zeiss lens was decent, but this, well, even I can take some nice, in focus, pictures. Even my state-of-the-art SLRs couldn’t do that. I give it an A+.

So far, I haven’t run across any negatives on the Droid Turbo. Granted, it’s only been five days and these are just first impressions. But so far, the Droid Turbo is a great smartphone.

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Buh-Bye WIndows Phone

My first touchscreen phone was an LG. It wasn’t an Android, this was long before Google. Nor did I have a data plan, so my Internet use on it was limited. Mostly used for texting, with a flip open keyboard, and as a phone. You know, that thing people do when they hold the object to their head and say, “Hello? Is Joe there?”

But then the true smartphone revolution started. IOS, then Android (forget about all those silly first attempts like the Palm Pilot and Crackberry — which for about 2 seconds I had thought about the Crackberry Storm, but then I came to my senses), and of course, Windows.

My first smartphone in this area was the Samsung Galaxy S. I believe it was the first iteration. At first blush, it was a pretty great phone. But after a few months, that blush turned to a flush of anger as I discovered more and more things about it that simply irritated me. I probably blogged about that at some point.

So when that contract was up, I switched to the Apple iPhone 4S. And again, at first blush, I thought it was marvelous. I became an Apple fanboy. I was going to switch every electronic device I owned over to Apple, but that lasted for only about a year, then I started getting irritated by it again. For one thing, since it was an Apple, everything was proprietary. I had to use their music service, which also meant their software on my computer, software that wasn’t always compatible with my Windows machine. There were other complaints, which I’m sure I blogged about, but most critical to me was writing. The iPhone just didn’t have a writing program completely compatible with MS Word. And the teeny tiny screen made editing on it a nightmare.

So I divested myself of that as quickly as I could and picked up a Windows 8 Nokia Lumia 928. Best thing about it? It had a phone version of Word that was completely compatible with my laptop’s version. I could edit on it without any hiccups or complaints. So for that reason alone, I was happy. But, as the year went on, I started to realize how pathetic Win8 apps were. I thought I could live without many of the ones I had on my Android and my iPhone, but no. There wasn’t an app for my bank, or an app for Wisconsin Public Radio, or Live365, for starts. But more importantly, the apps it did have, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, were crap. More often than not, when connecting to Facebook, I received an error, “We’re having trouble receiving data.” Totally frustrating and it got to the point where that was the deal-breaker. A smartphone without useable apps is a paper weight.

So guess what? Yes. I have a new phone. I’ve gone back to Android. If it isn’t 100% compatible with my laptop, at least it will be compatible with my Samsung tablet.

What did I get? The just released Motorola Droid Turbo. Just released the day we bought it. Verizon has just started the ad campaign for it. I’ll let you know how much I like it in a few years, but so far, the Facebook app flies! Literally. Whereas the Win8 phone took forever to load, then took an addition forever to refresh, this one is open the instant you touch it and it responds instantly to every touch. Beautiful.

To me, the 21 megapixel camera itself is worth the price of admission. It puts my Nokia, which had an 8.7 mp camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, to shame.

My youngest son has had the Motorola Droid Maxx for a few months and has been very happy with it. I know Motorola fell on hard times for a while there after creating the original Droid, which was all the buzz back then. But things fell apart and much of their equipment was less than stellar. Then they were bought out by Google, and now by Lenovo, which puts them in very good hands. Lenovo makes some excellent devices.

As the months go by, I’ll try to give a report on my impressions, first, and with continued use, but for now:

Hello Moto.

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